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Infectious Diseases

Updated 15 June 2020

Tips for staying safe - if you really need a face-to-face doctor's visit

When you have to see the doctor or any other healthcare professional for general ailments, it can be a daunting trip with the spectre of coronavirus hanging over your head.

  • At level 3 you can visit healthcare professionals like doctors and dentists
  • There are a few extra steps you can take to keep yourself safe when going for an appointment
  • Remember, do not keep your appointment if you're experiencing Covid-19 symptoms

Coronavirus is dominating conversations about health – but it doesn’t mean that all other health concerns have magically disappeared. 

We still have to see doctors, dentists, psychiatrists and other healthcare professionals for various other ailments and illnesses. With enforced physical distancing rules, telemedicine is becoming more popular, helping people access healthcare without putting themselves and their healthcare professionals at risk. 

This involves non-emergency appointments taking place virtually, talking to a healthcare professional about your ailments online or over the telephone, getting a diagnosis and even getting prescriptions that can be emailed.

READ: 'Telemedicine' stepping up amid coronavirus spread

However, there are still times you have to see a professional face-to-face to assess you better and perform physical actions. At present, making that appointment might seem somewhat daunting with the spectre of Covid-19 hanging over your head. 

Screening questions

But you still have to make those appointments, in case it’s something even more serious than coronavirus. Luckily, there are a few ways to put your mind at ease when visiting a healthcare professional.

READ: Covid-19 patients with high blood pressure face higher risk of death, study says

Don’t make the appointment if you have coronavirus symptoms. The first and most important thing to remember is to not visit any healthcare professional if you are showing symptoms of the coronavirus. 

This includes a fever, a new and persistent cough, shortness of breath and/or a loss of smell and taste. 

If you have any of these symptoms, self-isolate and consult your doctor via telephone or virtual appointment to determine whether you need to get a test. 

Most ask screening questions before letting make an appointment. Before your appointment is confirmed, most practices will ask you questions regarding Covid-19-related symptoms, contact with anyone who has tested positive, your age, and if you’re in lockdown with a vulnerable person. 

This will give you some sense of comfort in that they are aiming to ensure your safety as well as their own. You can also ask them questions about the precautions they're taking to give you peace of mind.

Take hand sanitiser with you

While hand sanitiser will be available at any health professional’s practice, having your own will help you sanitise every time you touch a surface. 

Also, wash your hands thoroughly before and after an appointment – help those looking after your health to remain healthy themselves.

ALSO READ: Touching your face is a coronavirus danger: tips to help you stop

Practising physical distancing in the reception room

The South African Dental Association recommends that patients try to arrive at their appointment exactly on time to minimise waiting in the reception room area. If you arrive early, another idea is to stay in your car until the time of your appointment. 

Most practices would have removed the customary reading material, but if they didn't, avoid browsing or touching any surfaces in the reception area. 

Also, maintain physical distancing practices by sitting far apart from other patients. 

Wear your cloth mask during the appointment

Unless you’re visiting the dentist, or your mouth needs to be examined, keep your cloth mask on throughout the whole procedure. 

The healthcare professional will also keep their mask on throughout the appointment. 

Don’t annoy the healthcare professional by wearing surgical masks or N95 respirators – these are in short supply, and medical professionals need them. 

SEE: If you’re making a DIY face mask, these are the best materials to use according to science

What about visiting the dentist?

According to Health24, a patient is far less likely to pick up coronavirus from a dentist than the other way around. They and their assistants have to wear masks and eye coverings, and have been taking effective safety precautions since even before the outbreak. 

In your case, only remove your mask when instructed to and never in the reception area. 

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